Chapter 43: When the Chips are Down

Artie jolted back and forth dribbling the basketball at a frenzied pace as he attempted to slip past Dal, who stood in front of him with his long arms extended.

"C'mon, is that all you got?" the fighter called out, "I thought your punk ass was supposed to be better than this! I haven't even broken a sweat yet!"

"Keep it up! You'll have something else broken," the hitman shot back as he attempted to find an opening in the fighter's defenses.

"All talk as always!" Dal shot back, clad in a purple and gold Los Santos Panic basketball jersey and matching athletic shorts, "Christ, even Randy shuts up better than you!"

Artie attempted to dart past his friend and go for a lay up, yet Dal was quicker and leaped up shooting his hand out and slapping the ball away before it could come anywhere near the hoop.

"Guess it's true, white men can't jump!" Dal cackled.

Without warning Artie shoulder tackled his friend to the tarmac and managed to catch the ball before it could bounce too far away, quickly charging for the hoop and delivering a picture perfect slam dunk.

"Oh yeah!" Artie hollered, hanging from the rim for a few seconds before dropping back down.

"Fuck man, this is supposed to be simple street ball!" Dal said pushing himself back to his feet, "Christ, Zeke wasn't lying about that 'Cappelli pride' of yours, but fuck man still!" he said wincing at the fresh scrape on his knee.

"Heh, you're supposed to be the 'big badass pit fighter' here aren't you? And yet you bitch about a simple scrape!" Artie taunted.

"Yeah, and fuck your couch too!" Dal shot back.

"Okay, time for a break then," Artie said attempting to twirl the ball on his fingertip, yet failing miserably.

"Ha! Afraid of getting your ass kicked again? Afraid you're gonna break a nail?" Dal taunted as they made their way towards a nearby bench where they left their gear.

"Yeah, yeah, fuck you sideways!" Artie said grabbing a towel and tossing it in the pit fighter's face. The duo had decided to get together for a game of one-on-one, meeting at the park in Cuba Norte three days after the hired gun's last job for Donnie. What was supposed to be a friendly game was on the verge of descending into a heated confrontation as both men's competitive spirits started getting the best of them and he decided to call for a break before fists could be thrown.

"So you think that pimp's gonna give you a discount after the way you saved his ass from those fundies?" Dal asked before taking a long swig from his water bottle.

"I don't know man. It's been a while since I've seen Gladys so I might give her a call and see if she wants to do something?" Artie asked before taking a swig from his bottle. He then lifted his arm and took a sniff, scrunching his face at the odor. "Damn, I'm gonna need another shower when I get home," he said tugging at the collar of his Love Fist t-shirt to air it out. In addition he was clad in a pair of red athletic shorts with white trime and some Eris Kombatt shoes.

"You really think you wanna be getting serious with someone if you're planning on getting the hell outta here once the blockade is lifted?" the pit fighter inquired taking of his Eris headband.

"Well she told me she wants to get the hell outta here herself, so she'll be coming with me," Artie replied.

"Still no idea where you're heading off too?" Dal asked rolling the basketball beneath his foot.

"Nope, guess I'm just gonna wing it," Artie said finishing off the last of his water and tossing the empty bottle into the nearby recycling barrel.

A hip-hop ring tone sounded and Dal reached into his gym bag for his cell phone, "Talk to me!"

Taking a cue, Artie reached for his own cell phone and checked to see he had two unread text messages, the first being from Zeke reminding him of another "Sworn for Battle" match up they had, this time with some clan from North Yankton.

"North Yankton? They actually have electricity there? I thought that place was nothing but snow and igloos," he thought to himself whenever he heard the largely remote state's name mentioned, the last thing of note coming out of that state being that big bank robbery that took place in Ludendorff back in 2004.

The second message was from Gladys where she told him that she was thinking of him in addition to sending a picture message of herself modeling a brand new neglige she had recently purchased from Viviana's Mystery.

"God I'm so calling that woman tonight," Artie told himself looking back just in time to see Dal switching off his phone.

"Hey bro, I'm sorry to cut this short but I've gotta run. That poseur bitch Lil' Kaine has a C.D. release party over at the Chilton and we're short-staffed again. Gotta get myself prepared," Dal said rising to his feet and scooping up both his bag and his ball.

"Alright, well nice seeing you again, but next time you won't be getting up on your own," Artie mockingly threatened as he and Dal bumped fists and he watched the pit fighter make his way over to his yellow BeeJay XL and take off.

Artie stood around idly for a few seconds before his cell phone rang and he looked down to see Johnny was calling him, his blood pressure rising upon seeing the rat bastard's name. With a low snarl he switched the phone on and spoke, "This better be fucking important!"

"Oh dear Arthur, do you think I'm calling you just because I enjoy the sound of your voice? Of course I'm calling you because it's fucking important!" the loan shark spat, techno music thumping in the background.

Artie did not reply, letting out another low snarl.

"Get over to Queen Sheba's Revue and we'll go from there. Now move your ass!" Johnny shouted before hanging up.

Artie once again clenched his phone in hand, nearly crushing it beneath the force. Calming himself down he scooped up his gym bag and made his way over to a nearby vendor selling nuts.

"Would you like my nuts in your mouth?" the Nut House vendor asked holding up a bag of steaming freshly-cooked nuts.

"Sure thing," Artie said handing the man a five dollar bill, unable to laugh at the innuendo as he normally would have. He walked over to the Deimos SP and climbed in, switching the radio to 94.3 and turning the volume up, wanting to do what he could to vent his rage. At the moment "Sickness Within" by Hatesphere was playing, a loud, aggressive sound perfect for this kind of situation.

The hitman whipped violently around a corner, prompting angry honking from the driver of a Benson, continuing on without a hitch and eventually whipping around another corner, where he cut off an oncoming Argento and sent it head on into a light pole.

"Serves you right for standing in my way, fucker," Artie thought to himself. Johnny Sneed was able to bring out a level of rage in him never before felt, a level which caused him to not give a fuck about anything or anybody else around him. All he focused on was getting to the rat bastard loan shark as fast as he could, getting done what needed to be done, and then getting him out of his hair until the next time he would be forced to deal with him. Until then, nobody else would be safe from his wrath, as was demonstrated by the poor bastard riding a Whippet race bike and sending him comically crashing into a Tarbrush Cafe coffee stand.

Artie roared into the Red Light District and it wasn't long before he was pulling up in front of Queen Sheba's Revue, parking the Deimos SP haphazardly and striding forcefully towards the front entrance, the club's doorman off to the side more concerned about picking up a nearby stripper on her smoke break rather than doing his job.

The strip club was its usual vibrant atmosphere with numerous strippers on the stages at once and the never ending plethora of horny locals throwing away their entire paychecks at the silicon-enhanced divas strutting their stuff on stage, one of which was dressed in a cop uniform with a nightstick held between her legs that she was stroking as if it were a penis.

"Where the fuck are you Johnny?" the hitman asked aloud scanning the area for signs of the loan shark.

It was at the back of the club in the V.I.P. area where he finally spotted the rat bastard, in the middle of receiving a lap dance from two of the dancers, his guards positioned at each corner of the enclosure.

Artie's blood boiled at the sight of the man and he powered towards the man, forcefully shoving some ginger-haired guy out of his way, yet yielding to a dancer wearing angel wings as he made his way over, the loan shark still entranced by the two women grinding on him.

"Well you're definitely looking a lot better than the last time I saw you," the hitman boomed, startling the two dancers from their routine.

Johnny stared incredulously towards the two women and was about to yell at them before he looked over and saw Artie standing before him. Stopping himself the loan shark leaned back and took a swig from his glass of brandy before speaking to the dancers, "Ladies, if you'll excuse us for a minute."

The dancers stood up and walked away just as Artie sat down on an ottoman across from him, the loan shark's bodyguards turning to face them. The hired gun furrowed his brow at the slimy bastard just as he casually crossed his legs and leaned back in his puffy armchair.

"Ah yes dear Arthur, it's been far too long. You'd be surprised at the what the miracles of modern medicine can accomplish," Johnny sarcastically chuckled.

"Cut the bullshit Johnny! What the fuck did you call me here for now?" the hired gun demanded.

"Aw c'mon Artie you're hurting my feelings here! Don't cha' wanna sit down and talk about the Statesmen game like all friends do? Have you seen the swing that Cricketer guy has? Man-" Johnny started rambling on, only to be cut off by the hitman standing up and overturning the ottoman.

"Enough!" the hitman roared, frightening several of the nearby patrons and causing a few of the dancers to stop halfway through their routines, Johnny's guards placing their hands over their concealed pistols.

Johnny chuckled venomously at the outburst, "You still haven't gotten it yet, have you Arthur Cappelli? You touch me and not only do you die, but so does everyone you love. Now if I were you I'd sit my guinea ass down and listen to what I have to say."

Artie looked around to the guards, their hands now on the handles of their respective guns. The looks in their eyes let him know they were not hesitant about shooting him dead if they absolutely had to. He also looked around to everybody else in the club, the music coming to a halt as the D.J. cowered beneath his station. The silence was so deathlike you could hear a needle drop, all frightened eyes upon him.

Taking a deep breath he returned his attention to the loan shark and spoke, "Alright, what do you want done?"

It was now Johnny's turn to look around to all the patrons and staff, "Don't you people believe in minding your own fucking business?" he snapped.

On cue the D.J. resumed his job, "Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for choosing Queen Sheba's Revue as your number one place for adult entertainment in all of lovely Rushmore City! And now here is a number for yours truly. Please be sure to tip your dancers!" he spoke into the microphone before playing "Pony" by Ginuwine.

"Now where were we?" Johnny asked before catching himself, "Oh right, I've been having an itching suspicion lately about someone I know."

"Yeah, I can see why," Artie sarcastically commented looking over to one of the dancers who had been with Johnny before his arrival, now taking another man by the hand and leading him to the ladies' restroom. "They make topical cream for that you know."

"Heh, that's cute," Johnny snapped before furrowing his brow towards the hitman, "Anyways, there's this guy who's been working for me for the past six years, a longshoreman down at the docks named Marty Balsamo. Lately he's been throwing around more money than he's earning and I don't know what the hell he's been doing, but I'm getting a suspicion that he might be doing something behind my back. I don't know if he's pimping, pushing or talking, but I sure as fuck don't like it!

"I want you to find out whatever it is he's doing and make an example out of his two-faced punk ass!" Johnny spat before pulling out his iFruit and showing Artie a picture of the man, a younger guy with short dark hair and matching eyes with a baby face that made him look like he was barely out of high school, "That's the schmuck right there. He drives a teal Admiral and here's the license plate to look for," he said showing him another pic before looking over to two of his guards, "Take Georgie and Leo with you and when you find that guy, introduce him to the business end of a bullet. Now get outta here!"

Artie didn't need to be told twice and looked over to the two guards, both of whom regarded him with a silent nod and made their way towards the front door and back out onto the street, the hitman hearing giggles and moaning coming from the nearby alley.

"Over there," Georgie said motioning to the nearby Schafter. The hitman walked over and waited for the two apes to climb in and then he started out. He turned up the radio's volume, having no interest in conversing with the two thugs as they went back and forth boasting about their recent sexual conquests. For him all he cared about was getting the job done so he could get as far away from that filthy prick as possible.

He took a sharp right and cut off a Stanier before barely clipping a Borgnine-owned cab and sending it colliding with a parked utility van, the extended platform lurching violently and causing the electric company worker to fall to the pavement below. Not even the relaxing sounds of Peace FM could assuage the rage coursing through Artie's veins and he gripped the steering wheel with white knuckle vigor, pretending it was Johnny's neck.

It was like that the entire drive over to the Harbor district and by the time he finally loosened his grip, the hitman swore he was likely to develop arthritis in the end.

"Alright, there's the dock he works at!" Leo suddenly called out as they approached a busy pier where the day shift employees were just starting to make their leave. Artie pulled the sedan to a halt near the employee parking lot and quietly scanned the workers passing through the main gate. It would take some time, but eventually he would spot a young man clad in soiled blue overalls and wearing a bright orange reflective vest just like everyone else, a steel lunchbox in one hand and his safety helmet tucked beneath his other arm.

It was Marty Balsamo and he was making his way over towards his parked Admiral, looking around as if he expected someone to be watching him before climbing in and pulling out of the parking lot.

"He probably knows someone is onto him. I'll have to be careful about it. Just hope these two apes are thinking the same thing," Artie told himself looking over to the two bodyguards before shifting the Schafter into drive and beginning to follow the teal Admiral from a safe distance. He eventually came to a halt at a red light with two other cars between them and waited for the light to turn green before he watched the sedan take a left turn and for once in his life obeyed all the proper traffic signals to avoid drawing suspicion.

He continued following from a distance until both cars behind the Admiral took off in opposite directions, yet he continued to tail him from his distance until the sound of sirens filled the air and both cars were brought to a screeching halt by a multi-car police chase, the Schafter nearly rear-ending the Admiral.

Artie stared intently at the teal-colored sedan hoping the driver wouldn't be getting too suspicious and he looked into the rear view mirror hoping the two apes riding with him would behave themselves. He didn't know if this kid had friends in unexpected places or what, a possibility that left the hired gun gripping his Walther P22's handle.

He watched quietly as Marty looked both ways and took another left hand turn, slowing down to let a bulky Securicar get between them in the hopes it would prevent the longshoreman from seeing them and getting suspicious. This would continue until the younger man took another left turn and without rousing any suspicion the hitman followed suit.

"C'mon bub, you gotta stop sometime or another," Artie told himself as they entered the Bellport district and passed the Three Leaf Clover, where he spotted the demolitions expert Boomer in the parking lot in the middle of a fist fight with some dreadlocked Caucasian guy. He felt tempted to stop and help his friend out, but knew the Irish-American was handling himself well judging by the Mack Samuels break he was taking in between right hooks inflicted upon his opponent.

Artie returned his attention to the Admiral and continued following from a safe distance until they approached a roadblock set up by the city fire department, who were in the middle of battling a blaze swallowing up an apartment complex. At the front of the roadblock was a police officer directing traffic down a detour that took them down another right hand turn and soon they were entering the Kasich district.

"Hey, I think he's coming to a stop!" Georgie shouted, pointing eagerly as the Admiral took a left turn onto a narrow side street and slowed to a near crawl, followed by another left turn.

Artie pulled to a halt on the side street and parked the car, "C'mon," he said to the two guards.

"Wait," Leo spoke before making his way around to the trunk and opening it, producing three PP-19 Bizon submachine guns. Artie accepted his gun and the trio quietly made their way down the other side street just in time to see Marty disappear into a nearby alleyway. The trio trailed him until the hired gun motioned for his goons to stop.

He peeked around the corner to see Marty talking with two Redcoats.

"Terrific," he hissed while eavesdropping on the conversation.

"There's the man!" one of the Redcoats called out as Marty approached, giving him a hearty pat on the back, "Ready to make some more bread?"

"You know I am," Marty called out and he walked off with the man while his colleague stayed behind to take a piss by a dumpster. With the man distracted Artie crept up behind him and brought the stock of his gun down onto the back of the man's skull and tossed him into the dumpster shutting the lid behind him.

Artie looked over his shoulder and motioned towards the guards and they followed after him until they came to the other narrow opening Marty and the Redcoat disappeared into, which led into a small courtyard guarded by two shotgun-wielding Redcoats. Again raising his hand the hired gun motioned for his cohorts to halt and he quickly ducked for cover behind a wrecked Rat Loader and crept closer to the booth where the two men stood.

They were standing in a small guard booth that gave them full view of a battered red steel door near some closed loading bays, the door of which Marty and the Redcoat disappeared through.

Artie looked over to the guards, who were both entranced by a baseball game being played on their radio. They would have an unobstructed view if he tried to make a break for the door with two guards at his side. He needed to get them away from each other and had to think quickly before that punk could get too far ahead of him.

There was an empty brick near his foot and he looked back to the guard booth and could hear the volume wasn't too high and he could probably figure out some kind of distraction. Surely enough there was an empty beer bottle near an overturned steel drum and he scooped that up too and tossed it near the guard booth, making a loud enough crash to divert the guards' attention.

"What was that?" one of the red-clad men asked pointing his shotgun out the doorway. He looked over to his friend and cocked his head towards the open courtyard.

"Probably just another fucking cat or meth head. Might as well find out. Haven't had any target practice today," the other Redcoat called out pumping his own shotgun and the two men made their way out into the open.

"That's right you stupid asses. Come to papa," Artie told himself as the Redcoat guards scoured the area in search of the cause and crept up on one of the guys, again driving the stock of his submachine gun into the back of the guard's head.

"Find anything?" the other guard called out walking closer to his location. Readying the brick Artie spotted a nearby cracked, dirty window and tossed the brick through it, the shatter catching the guards attention.

"Motherfucker going down!" the guy shouted, just as the hired gun took cover behind a dumpster and shot his foot out when the man ran past, tripping him and sending him face down into the pavement. With the man stunned he brought the PP-19's stock down and knocked the third man unconscious.

Looking back to Johnny's goons, the hired gun waved them forth and they approached the door Marty had entered through.

Artie carefully opened the door and the trio found themselves in the boiler room of the abandoned Cluckin' Bell Farms factory with red arrows spray painted on the walls and floors, deciding to follow them, eventually leading them down a flight of stairs to sub-level where more graffiti was spray painted on the brick wall, a warning: 'TO ALL WHO ENTER. KEEP YOUR FUCKING MOUTHS SHUT OR ELSE YOU'RE FUCKING DEAD! LOVE, THE OWNERS!'

"Not very subtle," he remarked aloud as he and his companions walked through the door and immediately found themselves surrounded by people sitting on couches, having alcoholic beverages, smoking or just chatting among themselves. Positioned at the end of the hall was another Redcoat standing guard.

"What is this place?" Georgie asked.

"Looks like we're about to find out," Leo replied.

Artie said nothing and led the way around the corner past the guard and the trio found themselves entering a gambling parlor filled with slot machines, Black Jack tables, roulette wheels, a craps table and even a few off track betting stations.

"Where the hell did they get all this stuff?" Artie asked aloud as the boorish Georgie stole a margarita right off a waitresses' tray as she walked past them and eying up another woman walking past in a dominatrix outfit while Leo pulled out his iFruit.

A small band was set up in a corner with a guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, serenading the winners and losers, but Artie was still able to hear the goon talking into the phone.

"Boss, it's Leo. We followed that Marty schmuck alright. He led us to some gambling parlor and from the looks of things those Redcoats must be running the show," he spoke before awaiting a reply from Johnny, "Yeah, it's fucking big time here. I don't know how they pulled it off, but it's some serious Venturas style shit here!" he spoke before again waiting for another reply from his boss and nodding along, "Yeah, it's in that abandoned Cluckin' Bell Farms place in Kasich."

Artie ignored Leo's conversation and looked over to spot Marty Balsamo coming out of what appeared to be a V.I.P. room now wearing a fancy black silk suit, black and white two-toned wingtips, a gold chain around his neck and a silver Crowex, looking a little too well-dressed for being a 'lowly longshoreman.'

"Eh Marty, how ya' doin'!" he heard a voice calling out and quickly the hired gun approached a nearby unattended slot machine and sat down on the stool in front of it, acting like he was playing a game. He tried to keep his eyes glued on the fruit symbols in front of him while at the same time eavesdropping on the conversation taking place.

"Chester, it's been a while, but Marty Balls is just fine!" the younger called back.

Artie stole a quick peek away from the slot machine's screen to catch a glimpse of Marty talking to a man whose fashion sense was on par with Jimmy Sweet's in terms of gaudiness.

The man was a tall African-American male with his black hair cropped closely to his head and wearing a bright red suit with a black dress shirt underneath, a white tie, black and white two-toned dress shoes and had a large ruby ring on his left hand. He had a cocktail in one hand and was giving Marty a hearty handshake with his free hand.

"Eh, glad to hear it home boy. Why don't cha' come to the back? We're having that 'special game.' Winner takes home a big purse. Think you'll be able to make it four in a row? Your aim is becoming the stuff of legend around here," the suited man spoke.

"You know me all too well. I'm never one to turn down some easy money. Fuck, it's way more than that fucking Pollack ever pays me," Marty said as the duo turned on their heels and walked towards the back.

Artie was about to follow after them when he felt a bony hand tapping him on the shoulder and he turned to see a short elderly Korean lady sticking an elf doll with wild orange hair in his face.

"Excuse me sonny, can you please rub my elf's hair for good luck?" she asked in her thick broken accent. Artie didn't have time for such nonsense and turned on his feel following after the duo, the woman shouting at him in her native tongue. Judging by her tone he knew he was being cursed at.

Artie brushed off the woman's shouts and made his way towards the back, bobbing and weaving his way around the other patrons until he was entering a narrow corridor and followed it until coming to a door guarded by a Redcoat carrying an AA-12 combat shotgun.

"No entry past this point unless you're looking to participate," the man spoke.

"If this is the 'special game' I've heard about, then I'm in," Artie replied.

The man nodded and let him through and the hitman pushed the door open, only to be met by the coppery stench of long ago dried blood.

The door led into a small drab-looking room with its white walls and floor covered in dried bloodstains. There were three targets positioned on the far left wall, all of them covered in blood and full of nicks made by knives, the target area itself cordoned off by the kind of chain link protection he would have expected in a batting cage, separating the 'shooting range' from a small area where numerous spectators gathered, Marty and Chester among the crowd.

Artie sneaked his way in and took a position behind some burly biker a few inches taller than him and some Mohawked punk rocker. From where he stood he could see a wooden shelf with five knives sticking out of it, all of them recently cleaned.

"I think I know where this is going," he told himself as Chester walked to the front of the crowd and motioned for everybody to quiet down.

"Alright all you hip cats, this is where the real fun happens!" he called out, prompting hoots and hollers from the attendees.

On cue, a side door opened and two Redcoats entered dragging in a frightened man in a hot dog costume. The man had a hood over his head but when Artie heard his voice he immediately recognized him.

"Unhand me at once you Visigoths!" the high-pitched yowl of Randy Spitz called out as the hood was removed, "I swear if I get fired from my job over this the blood will be on your hands!"

"Just shut the fuck up bitch boy!" one of the Redcoats responded pulling out a blackjack and striking him hard in the kneecap, causing the nerdy man to cry out in pain.

"Randy, what the fuck have you gotten yourself into now?" Artie asked as the two men began tying him to one of the wooden targets. He was dressed like Willy Wiener, the mascot of the Wiener World franchise, "Must be that new job he just had to brag about and nearly get me shot in the process."

"Non-existent God, why must you once again find it necessary to take yet another major shit all over me?" Randy whined, again silenced when the same thug raised his blackjack.

Chester pulled one of the throwing knives out of the shelf and twirled it with the grace of a master, "Alright boys, the aim is to hit the target. Sweet and simple," and with those words he chucked the throwing knife in Randy's direction, causing him to let out an inhuman shriek of terror. Fortunately the knife was embedded in the wall next to him.

"That's just a warm up," Chester chuckled as a wet spot appeared over Randy's crotch. He then looked over to Marty, "Marty Balls here has been our champ for the last four weeks, the dead eye himself! Why don't you show all these noobs what you're made of?"

"With pleasure," Marty snickered grabbing another knife and going to toss it.

Artie looked ahead to Randy and saw the look of pure horror in his eyes and the rapid rise and fall of his chest.

"Damn it. Randy might be one annoying motherfucker, but still even he doesn't deserve to die like this," the hitman told himself stepping up behind the longshoreman and catching his attention.

"And what the fuck do you want?" he asked looking over his shoulder, clearly annoyed.

"Why don't you let someone else try for once?" Artie smirked.

"Fuck off pally. This is my head to claim!" the longshoreman retorted.

The smirk never left Artie's face, "Oh really? You scared of a little competition?"

That comment roused some cheers from the other spectators urging him to accept the hitman's challenge. Marty looked wordlessly towards him and the crowd before an electronic ring sounded and Chester was left reaching into his pocket for his cell phone.

"Yeah, what is it?" he demanded, listening to the voice on the other end, "The Aces again? Those motherfucking bastards! I'll be right over!" the man hollered before turning to Artie and Marty, "Looks like you two are on your own. Don't disappoint," he said before disappearing out the door with two guards in tow.

Marty looked back to Artie and smirked, "Alright hot shot. You wanna come in here like you fucking own the place? Alright, let's see what you got," he said offering the throwing knife.

"Gladly," Artie said taking the knife in hand and taking his position.

When Randy looked up to see his next attacker his skin paled and his eyes grew wide as saucers.

"A...A...A...Ar...Ar...Ar," he tried to gasp, but sounded like he was on the verge of hyperventilating.

"I'm not going to hit him on purpose. Just gotta put on a show for these clowns," Artie told himself as he took his time and flung the knife, purposely embedding it in the wood next to Randy's head, causing him to let out another blood-curdling shriek.

"Ha ha! Typical fucking noob! Why don't you spare yourself and let a real fucking pro show you how it's done?" Marty taunted.

"I'll get it sooner or later," Artie slyly replied, looking back to Randy and mouthing the words 'play along.' The fidgety ex-cashier looked back to him uneasily before he took the next knife and chucked it dangerously low, right between his legs and causing the man to scream 'You son of a bitch!'

"Man you suck," a spectator called out.

"My blind grandmother could hit that weenie before you could," another heckled.

"You might as well let a real man handle this," Marty snapped trying to snatch the next throwing knife away, but Artie was quicker and cut him off before he could.

"Relax man! I'll get it eventually!" Artie protested grabbing the knife away along with the other one.

It was then a staccato of loud popping came from the main parlor.

"What the fuck?" Marty called out.

Given the distraction, Artie took the throwing knife and chucked it straight into the young man's chest and then tossed the other knife into the throat of a Redcoat guard. The nearest Redcoat guard saw the action and raised his Glock taking aim at the hired gun, but instead striking down both the biker and punk rocker before one of the biker's friends raised a Colt Python and returned fire, causing several of the other spectators to draw their own firearms and exchange gunfire.

With the room descending into chaos Artie took his chance to hop the barricade and made his way into the enclosure. Grabbing the throwing knife stuck between Randy's legs he then proceeded to cut the nerdy man free.

"Artie what are you doing here?" he asked before his tone suddenly raised, "More importantly, why were you trying to fucking kill me?"

"I had to look like I belonged," the hired gun replied helping his friend off the target and quickly leading him towards the side door the guards had brought Randy through.

The duo made their way back to find Leo and Georgie shooting the place up, frightened patrons fleeing in all directions and the Redcoats returning fire.

"Fuck this shit!" Georgie called out looking in his direction, "We're taking this place! Smash everything you can!" he shouted before grabbing a Redcoat and tossing him onto a Black Jack table, splitting it in half while Leo began knocking over slot machines.

"Find some place to hide," Artie shouted to Randy pulling out the PP-19 and gunning down a Redcoat as he prepared to fire a round of buckshot into Georgie. A nearby Redcoat took notice of him and attempted to whip him with the butt of his AK-47, but the hitman was quicker and wrapped his arm around the man's throat, taking him as a human shield. Unfortunately for the hapless gang banger, his so-called friends took no regard for his well-being and riddled him with bullets in their efforts to kill the hired gun.

With his human shield dead, the hitman took cover behind a nearby counter and continued popping out to fire quick controlled bursts as his colleagues struggled with the other red-clad gangsters. He continued creeping along the counter until he bumped into something and looked down to see it was the elderly Korean lady from earlier, who again shouted at him in her native tongue before striking him with her purse.

"Lady I ain't got time for this!" the hired gun said shoving his way past the woman and cutting down another Redcoat with a burst that sent him falling backwards, his gun discharging and taking down another rival gangster. With both men down Artie vaulted over the counter and shot out the kneecaps of a Redcoat, then stomping on his hand and breaking all the bones as he reached for a .38 revolver.

"You Redcoats are fuckin' amateurs! All of ya's!" Georgie laughed hysterically before being cut down by a shotgun blast to the stomach, his attacker cut down a second later by Leo.

"C'mon, we gotta get to the counting rooms," Leo said scooping up the AK-47 of a fallen Redcoat and gunning down two more rival gangsters.

The hitman threw down the emptied PP-19 and scooped up the Saiga-12 assault shotgun of another fallen Redcoat along with all the shells the dead man carried and followed after Leo, the Banditelli goon leading him into a narrow hallway with counting rooms on each side.

"You're on Banditelli turf now bitches!" Leo shouted gunning down two money men before he was forced into cover by another Redcoat. Artie saw his predicament and fired through the nearby window to drop the man in a bloody flurry. He saw two more Redcoats emerging from the room to his right, yet they were boxed in by the narrow doorway and he was able to quickly dispatch both of them before turning his attention to one of the parlor cashiers and gunning the man down as he reached for a sawed-off shotgun hidden beneath one of the desks.

"Smash the cash boxes! Take whatever you can get!" Leo called out from the room across from him, only to fall a second later as a Redcoat cut him down with dual Ingram MAC 10's.

The gangster laughed as he set his sights on Artie and fired away madly, shards of glass and shredded papers flying as the hired gun dove for cover behind another desk. Creeping along the steel desks he eventually managed to peek around the corner and fire a blast from the Saiga-12 from a prone position, striking the hood in his side and leaving him bleed to death.

The hired gun returned to his feet and peered through the shattered windows to spot the cash boxes Leo spoke of before his demise and he ran over, blowing them open one by one with blasts from his shotgun, only to be halted as three more Redcoats came charging in attempting to surround the hired gun.

"Going down motherfucker!" one of the red-clad hoods shouted before firing a burst from his TEC-9.

Artie kicked a swivel chair towards the man in the hopes of delaying his attack as he turned to deliver a thrust kick into the midsection of a Redcoat who attempted to jump him from behind, again grabbing the man and using him as a human shield before grabbing him and shoving him into his colleague, finishing them off with blasts from the Saiga-12 and he turned to finish the TEC-9 thug off first with a blast to his stomach and lastly with one that reduced his head to a bloody pulp.

The hired gun ejected the last of his spent shells and looked around for any other threats, only to hear someone clapping.

Whirling around with his shotgun at the ready he found Johnny Sneed standing before him, sarcastically applauding his performance.

"Way to go Artie! Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!" he mockingly called out pumping his fist in the air, "You sure know how to stack those corpses like its judgment day!"

"Can the bullshit Sneed! What the fuck are you doing here?" Artie demanded.

"Heh, what does it look like idiota? I'm here applauding your 'oh so inspiring' performance," the loan shark chuckled, "Perhaps that little rat bastard had some use after all. Got the boys here cleaning this place out as we speak."

"Uh Artie...is it safe to come out now?" Randy asked peeking out from behind them, only to yelp aloud when he realized it was Johnny Sneed standing before Artie.

"C'mon we're getting out of here," Artie said brushing past Johnny and grabbing his friend by the arm.

They made their way back into the main corridor where more Banditelli goons had arrived and were now in the process of clearing the corpses from the shooting range. Artie came to a halt when he spotted Marty's body among them.

"Hold up," he said letting go of Randy and making his way over to the longshoreman's carcass.

"Hey Artie what are you...oh man, is that really necessary?" he asked as Artie knelt over the body.

Artie ignored Randy's protests and proceeded to remove both the silver Crowex and gold chain from the deceased Marty Balsamo. "These should get me a few extra bucks at Pawn-O-Rama."

"Alright, now we can get out of here," he said leading his friend to the exit.

XXXXX

"Sir, I'm serious. I was kidnapped by a group of Redcoats," Randy repeated for the tenth time into Artie's cell phone, trying to talk over the screams of a very pissed off supervisor, "No I'm not using this as an excuse to get an extra day off! Four Redcoats seriously jumped out of a van while I was about to give some snotty six year old a free wiener, grabbed me, threw a hood over my head and next thing I know I'm in some basement having knives thrown at me!" he shouted pacing back and forth, ignoring the stares of an elderly couple walking past him.

The duo was now outside the Cool Beans in Blue Hook, Artie finishing off his Beaner while reclining against his Deimos SP. In hindsight he wondered if pumping the younger man full of caffeine had been the smartest idea on his behalf, but the young man was enough of a mess after being kidnapped and nearly having his life ended yet again and was desperate for anything he could eat or drink following the ordeal. When he called out for the cafe as they passed through the hired gun found himself not having the heart to turn him down.

Now here he was pacing back and forth still in his Willy Wiener costume, blabbing back and forth with a pissed off manager as more and more streetwalkers were beginning to take notice of the spectacle before them.

"Smooth move Artie," he told himself tossing the empty cup into the nearby trash bin, pretending he didn't know the younger man.

"I'm serious! This wasn't my fault!" Randy shouted into the phone one last time before he was cut off by another pissed off tirade. Ten additional seconds passed before he switched off the Whiz and looked dejectedly down to the sidewalk.

"I take it things didn't go well?" Artie asked uncrossing his arms.

"No...they didn't. I'm fired...again. Now all I am is a virgin dressed like a huge wiener," Randy sighed sadly as a pigeon perched itself on his shoulder and took a huge dump before flying away.

Once again Artie couldn't help but feel bad for the now fired Randy, a man who seemed to have the Devil's luck if there any was. He felt compelled to help man his night a little better and looked over to see the Binco store in the distance.

"Come on," he said grabbing Randy and leading him towards the sports car, "You need a distraction from all this bullshit. It can be my treat."

The nerd looked up to him in puzzlement, "Are you serious?"

"Sure," Artie said walking around and climbing into the driver's seat, "First I'll get you some new clothes and then I'll take you over to Hell's Belles. My cousin owns the place, get you the V.I.P. treatment."

Randy's bafflement turned to astonishment, "Are you serious?" he asked again.

Artie reached over and opened the passenger side door for him, "Is this serious enough for you?"

Randy's eyes suddenly widened and his breathing accelerated, "Oh my...I'm going to have boobs shoved in my face," he whispered to himself, "I'm going to have boobs shoved in my face!" he repeated, this time in a joyous shout that had more streetwalkers looking at him strangely. "I'm going to have boobs shoved in my face!"

The excitement was quickly getting the better of Randy and he began hyperventilating, forcing him to reach into his pocket and grab his inhaler. Taking a few puffs his breathing slowed and he carefully lowered himself into the passenger seat.

"Time to get this show on the road," Artie said starting the car up, setting the station to Rock of Rushmore 89.5 and turning up the volume as Rare Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate" blasted through the airwaves.

XXXXX

Author's Note: And so concludes yet another installment of "Rushmore City," this mission being largely inspired by the New Hennequet Rec Center stronghold mission from "Saints Row 2."

Well that's pretty much it from my end so as always read and review! This is Metal Harbinger saying SPREAD THE SICKNESS, ONE MIND AT A TIME! \m/